Introducing “The 2020 Vision”

Former Cabinet Ministers Charles Clarke and Alan Milburn have today launched a new web site called The 2020 Vision intended to open a debate about the future policy direction of the British Labour Party, particularly in the context of an impending change of leadership in the Party as Tony Blair steps down in the summer. I welcome a debate and I would like to see a contest, rather than a coronation, for the Labour leadership – although, given the political history of Clarke and Milburn, there are bound to be doubts about the motives of this particular initiative.
I believe that Gordon Brown will – and should – become the next Labour leader and Prime Minister. Like all leaders, he has his flaws, but he is an outstanding politician who has delivered much for this country in his 10 years as Chancellor and earned the right to tackle the top job that he has coveted for so long. But it would be good for him, the Party and the country for the leadership to be contested.
We don’t need a detailed set of policies from Brown – that can wait for the opening of his first 100 days at No 10. But we do need to know the principles on which he will conduct his premiership: how serious are we about tackling inequalities of wealth and power in our society? how committed are we to reducing child poverty? what energy sources are we going to use and how rapidly are we going to combat climate change? what is the role of the private sector in the provision of public services? what is Britain’s role in the world’s trouble spots and in creating a fairer trade system? why do we need to renew the Trident nuclear deterrent?
John O’Donnell and Michael Meacher have already declared for the Left, but it looks unthinkable that both could win the 44 nominations required from Labour MPs. Meacher is much the more credible candidate and I hope that he gets the chance to run.
But there should also be a heavyweight candidate from the Blairite Right of the Party. Ideally it should be someone still in the Cabinet who is willing to risk ending his political career for a wider cause. Whatever his current problems at the Home Office, John Reid seems to have the right profile and age.
Meanwhile the race to be Deputy Leader is becoming almost surreal, not least because there is no guarantee that the Deputy Leader will become Deputy Prime Minister and, even if he or she does, there is no certainly that the role will be meaningful. That all depends on Brown. Of the six declared candidates, I would back Alan Johnson who used to be my boss at the CWU.
Meanwhile David Cameron is doing really well repositioning his reluctant Conservative Party and is going to give any new Labour leader a real contest at the next General Election – which is as it should be in a mature, vibrant democracy. Let battle – and debate – commence …

One Comment

  • Richard Leyton

    Why this talk from people of “risking political careers” in order to stand in opposition to Brown? After all, David Cameron has David Davies – his leadership rival – as a senior member of his cabinet.
    I agree there should be a contest, but as a voter, I’d really take a dim view on a coronation without finding out more about our future PM that a contest would result in.
    I would take a particularly dim view on a party/leader that doesn’t seem to want a public debate, who can’t acknowledge differences at the top, won’t necessarily review their own views in the face of an argument, and – after all that – then go get on with the job of running the country with the best people – even if that person was a rival for the leadership.
    If it’s felt to be the death of a politician to stand up against Brown, I’m really left with poor view of both Brown, the cabinet, and even the party itself, for letting this happen. They’re missing a great opportunity to find fresh thinking, and that will expose them in the next general election…